Riding the Wave: A History of Real-time Collaboration

23 Oct
Courtesy of thelastminute

Courtesy of thelastminute

Now that I’ve started to talk with analysts and other early adopters about PBworks’ upcoming Real-time Collaboration update (more on that later), one of the very first questions I always get is, “Is that like Google Wave?”

Many people, even industry experts, are under the impression that Google Wave is the first product to offer real-time collaborative editing.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, real-time editing has been around for decades.  So in the interests of the common good, I’m offering this brief history of real-time editing.

While true industry pros will tell you that real-time editing has existed since the PDP-10 era, the first citation that appears on Wikipedia is Instant Update for the Mac, circa 1991.  More recently, the primary real-time editor that people cite is SubEthaEdit, though this product remains relatively unknown outside of developer circles.

In the wiki/collaboration world, real-time editing has been around since JotSpotLive…which, ironically enough, was acquired by Google (and then dumped in the dustbin).

More recently, Etherpad (disclosure, I am a personal investor in its parent company, AppJet) launched its web-based real-time collaboration tool in November of 2008, and has built up a tidy little following.

So by the time that Google Wave emerged in May 2009, real-time collaboration had been around for nearly 20 years, and had even existed as part of the Google family (prior to JotSpot’s burial at sea).

That’s not to say that real-time collaboration, being old rather than new, isn’t groundbreaking.  In fact, we here at PBworks believe it has a ton of potential…the key is figuring out how to apply it to the all-important task of getting work done.

We think we’ve done so, and will be unveiling the PBworks take on real-time collaboration at the Enterprise 2.0 conference (which you can attend for free!).

Those of you who are PBworks customers and users, stay tuned next week for a special sneak preview….

One Response to “Riding the Wave: A History of Real-time Collaboration”

  1. Jonathan Bennett October 26, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys do with real-time collaboration (RTC). In my experience, RTC tools have been a neat thing to try but in reality it actually decreased productivity among teams when compared to a simple chat room or instant messaging.

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